Lullaby by Leïla Slimani review – brilliantly unsettling

She seemed like the perfect nanny… A stylishly written French thriller probes at fault lines of gender, race and class to devastating effect

Anyone who has ever had to hire someone to look after their children in their own home knows that it is unlike any other working arrangement. The contractual lines should be the same – fair salary, paid holidays, disciplinary measures if anything goes wrong – but they are also a civilised gloss on something far messier: physical and emotional intimacy, a requirement of absolute trust in a stranger and a power relationship whose collateral damage, if things go wrong, can easily be visited on a defenceless child. And not only the child. In her Prix Goncourt-winning novel, which has taken France by storm, Leïla Slimani’s brilliantly executed insight is that there is great emotional jeopardy for everyone involved.

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